Now open and available to all, James Herbert, former director of research programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities, reviews three books on doing history and what that means: Being a Historian by James M. Banner Jr., History Hunting by James Cortada, and History in Practice by Ludmilla Jordanova.
A common theme that Herbert points out is how “All three of these books humbly refrain from claiming high epistemological status for history … . All three, however, calmly assume the utility of history, of what Jordanova calls ‘the past’s perennial usefulness in the present.’” With this in mind, Herbert goes on to discuss the central role that public (or “applied”) history plays in each of these books, in the expanded career choices for students of history, and in the discipline as a whole.
Also in this issue and also speaking to the broad utility of history are articles by Debbie Ann Doyle, on the economic impact of the National Parks, and Marian J. Barber, reporting on the recent Congressional Briefing on immigration policy by three noted historians. Even if history has no claim to “high epistemological status,” it has concrete, ground-level influence—in everything from national policy formulation to how we spend our leisure time.